October 2017 Magazines 89052 - Page 58

Making a Difference Melissa Richardson: Melissa Richardson, a master teaching artist with the national Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, recently visited Las Vegas to train new teaching artists. Teaching Through the Arts The Smith Center in the Classroom Teaching artist Melissa Richardson clapped her hands on her knees and sang as the class of 4-year-olds before her watched eagerly. “What do actors do? Actors use their body, and actors use their voice,” she chanted in the classroom of the Hill and Dale Child Development Center in Las Vegas. “Can you use your voice to make a cow sound?” She further instructed the preschoolers in stretching into pretend trees and using different vocal pitches to express char- acters in “The Three Bears.” This not only kept them engaged, but helped them retain information by experiencing it in an active and creative way, and while the children might not have realized it, they were learning to tell a story with acting. This serves as a key example of just what the Southern Nevada Wolf Trap (SNWT) Early Learning Through the Arts program, currently offered by nonprofit The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, is accomplishing. Under the program, The Smith Center’s profession- al teaching artists partner with preschool educators for seven-week, in-classroom residencies, during which the educators learn to incor- porate music, theater and movement into teaching all curricula. With the program provided at no cost to schools, more than 1,000 local early childhood educators have participated. 58 October/November 2017 “Applying arts-based teaching strategies can have so many bene- fits,” says Candy Schneider, Vice President of Education and Outreach at The Smith Center. “Just think of learning about the world through a song or acting out a story, or through movement. Teachers who have participated in the SNWT program have found these methods help with student engagement, retention, communi- cation skills and more.” Wolf Trap: Students at Hill and Dale Child Development Center in Las Vegas learn about storytelling through acting as part of The Smith Center’s Southern Nevada Wolf Trap Early Learning Through the Arts program.